Vietnam, Iraq, now Afghanistan; So many lives lost in vain

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In moves reminiscent of April 29, 1975, which marked the end of the Vietnam War and that of US troops hurriedly vacating the country becoming an enduring symbol of defeat with thousands of Americans and their Vietnamese allies airlifted out of the city, were visuals of thousands of frightened people attempting to flee Afghanistan. It signaled the dreadful situation prevailing in the country in the aftermath of the takeover by the Taliban against whom the Americans waged a 20-year war before withdrawing its troops some two weeks ago. There were also visuals of many who died when in desperation they tried to cling on to transport planes taking off carrying those fortunate enough to get in.  

The situation on the ground must have been what prompted America’s former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton to say in an interview that she fears President Joe Biden’s decision to pull out US troops from war-devastated Afghanistan will lead to dire consequences that the United States should be prepared to face.   

“Well, it’s been made. And I know it is a very difficult decision. This is what we call a wicked problem,” Ms. Clinton told CNN,adding that the presidential decision had ramifications – both foreseen and unintended – of staying and of leaving Afghanistan.  

The collapse of the Afghan government and a takeover by a Taliban-run government, probably with a resumption of civil war in certain parts of Afghanistan, about which she warned, was already happening.  

“How do we help and protect the many, many thousands of Afghans who worked with the US and NATO-connected contractors,” Ms. Clinton asked and voiced concern about those who spoke out for women’s rights and human rights.“I hope the administration, in concert with the Congress will have a very large visa programme and will begin immediately to try to provide that channel for so many Afghans to utilise so that they are not left in danger.” She said President Biden’s move could trigger a huge refugee outflow and a possible resumption of activities by global terrorist groups, particularly Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.  

The US has been trying to get out of Afghanistan, its longest war, for several years now. American troops ousted the Taliban in a matter of months when they invaded the country to root out Al-Qaeda, which orchestrated the 9/11 attacks while being harboured by the Taliban. But it proved more difficult to hold territory and rebuild a nation battered by repeated wars.  

Meanwhile, a BBC report said former British Prime Minister Tony Blair had described the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan as wrong and based on an “imbecilic” slogan and labelled the decision as “tragic, dangerous and unnecessary”.  

Mr. Blair, who sent troops into Afghanistan 20 years ago, said British involvement in Afghanistan was not a “hopeless endeavour” despite the Taliban takeover and the sacrifice made by British troops “was not in vain” and said achievements in the country over the past 20 years – including a generation growing up without Taliban rule – was a “good cause” that “matters today”. Speaking to broadcasters, he shared concerns, not only for the Afghan people, who he said stood to lose out, but also for the security of Western countries.   

Be that as it may, President Biden struck a defiant tone as he defended the withdrawal of American troops after the Taliban’s lightning fast takeover of Afghanistan. “I stand squarely behind my decision,” the President told the nation in a televised address from the White House.  

Operation Enduring Freedom, which had ended up costing the US some US$2.261 trillion, was launched on October 7, 2001 as part of President George W. Bush’s wider war against terrorism after the 9/11 attacks. The Defence Department said, nearly 2,352 U.S. military members were killed in Afghanistan as of this month; 20,000American service personnel wounded, some 66,000 Afghan military and national police personnel and 47,245 Afghan civilians killed in the conflict.   

It was indeed a costly war, which should never have been allowed to happen. No matter where, whether in Vietnam, Iraq or in Afghanistan, such invasions or incursions, initially launched to punish governments, which the US had once supported or funded but had later been perceived to have turned recalcitrant or intractable, finally end up in hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children being killed or maimed for life, though they were in no way connected to the conflict that triggered such mindless, wasteful or futile wars. 

So much for the much touted human rights now nowhere to be found.   

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Disclaimer: Vietnam, Iraq, now Afghanistan; So many lives lost in vain - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect point-of-view

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